Tag Archives: cold calls

Cold Calling in a Foreign Language

language barrier

You Think Cold Calling is Tough? Try Doing it in a Foreign Language!

When I first stared at this job and began to grow the business across Canada, there was a huge gaping hole in my territory.  That gaping hole was the French-only speaking province of Quebec.  Two years into my position I came to the point where I couldn’t avoid it any longer.  I wanted to continue to grow my sales and I knew that market was untapped and full of opportunity.

Why did I avoid it for so long?

Because I don’t speak French! I had only ever taken basic French up until Grade 12 so I knew some of the basics but far from what I needed to know to try and conduct business.  The French knowledge that I did learn in school was pretty much useless because for some reason here in Canada, they teach you Parisian French but in Quebec they speak Quebecois French which is essentially another language.  I have met people who have moved to Quebec from France and they have told me that it took them almost 2 years to pick up the dialect.

NoIdeaWhatYoureTalkingAbout

So I did what I normally do when confronted with something I don’t like to do, tell myself, “Suck it up Princess!” and just do it!

So I came up with a plan:

1. Translate all Literature into French. I opted to do this as a sign of respect for their language and I’m glad I did because I later learned that in Quebec the government has a “Language Police” division that will fine companies who correspond with Quebec companies in English before French.

2. Write a Cold Calling Script Using Google Translate. The script I created was a general introduction which included:

  • My name, company name and my role (single sentence)
  • What my company does (single sentence)
  • Ask if I could send them information and for them to provide their contact details

3. Cold Call Using My Script in French and hope and pray that I could understand the contact details they gave me!!! If they said anything else, I was totally lost and couldn’t understand!

4. Mail or Email Literature. This was the easy part!

5. Follow-up Call – SKIPPEDYes I skipped the follow-up call because even if I could figure out how to ask the right questions, there was no way I could understand what they would say to me in response!

6. Schedule a Face-to-Face Meeting using a New Script In this script which I once again wrote with the assistance of my new best friend Google Translate, in which I:

  • Asked if they received the information I sent them. I could understand oui (yes) or non (no)- Yay me!
  • Mentioned that I will be meeting with other practitioners in their area on DAY X or DAY Y and if they would have time to meet with me. I wrote out all of the days of the week in English and French so I could have a quick reference at my side. I did happen to know my numbers in French so that helped with setting appointment times.
  • Confirmed the date and time of the meeting, hung up the phone and hoped for the best!

7. Show up for the Meeting and hope to God that I Understood Correctly!  Was I at the right place at the right time? Did I get a meeting with the decision maker? Hoping that the receptionists (who only spoke French) didn’t ask me any questions or try to initiate a conversation. Sweat, sweat, sweat!!! I tell you, a business card can go a long way when you can’t express yourself properly.  When the front desk staff would try to engage with me, all I could do was smile and say, “Parlez-vous Anglais?”. Usually that just ended with a “non” and we sat there awkwardly as I tried to keep my palms planted firm on my legs as to make sure my hands weren’t too sweaty when I went in for that handshake with my new potential client.

8. In the Meeting Hope that the Client Speaks Some English. Most of my clients in Quebec are also trained in English so as long as you put some effort in to speak French then politely ask to converse in English, they will be more than willing to try.  A lot of these conversations involved us sitting together using the Google Translate app on our cell phones in order to properly communicate! In some cases we would find one of their staff members who had an excellent command of both languages who would act as our translator.

What was The Biggest Obstacle I  had to Overcome? Pricing Objections!

For those of you who read my recent article “The Pricing Objection: What it Really Means and How to Overcome it” you will know that I always try to focus on creating value rather than focusing on price.  In this scenario, the language I would normally use to convey value was too complicated to be “dumbed down” sort to speak into basic English. So where did that leave me? Struggling with pricing objections.  All they wanted was price and when they saw that my prices were higher, we suddenly had nothing else to discuss, or rather could not carry on a conversation about anything else because of the language barrier.  Can you say awkward? 

At this point, I’d lost on price and was unable to convey value as I had always done, focusing on product quality and service.  So now what?

This is when it pays off to listen to your clients, even if you can’t fully understand them because as it turned out, there was something I could do to create value for them.

They were all asking me if we had anyone at the office who spoke French.  At the time, my company didn’t have anyone who spoke French but neither did my competitors.  So I made a call to my boss and asked him if he would be willing to hire someone who is bilingual if I get some business and he agreed.

9. Make a Deal- “If you give me 50% of your business, my company will bring on a French-speaking customer service representative.” And that did the trick. It got me into the province and from there I was able to come back and grow it into a very lucrative territory, with the help of our new bilingual customer service rep of course.

So I am sure most of you are thinking, “I will never be in this situation so it doesn’t apply to me.”, and sure you are right to some extent, however the take home message I have for all of you sales people out there is that if you want to succeed in sales:

  • Grow some balls, “Suck it up Princess” and get out there no matter how intimidated you are.
  • Always listen to your clients (even if you can’t really understand them!).
  • Be creative and think outside of the box, always striving to find solutions to your clients’ needs.

Happy sales my friends…and don’t be shy!

Cheers,

TSW

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Do Men Make Better Sales Representatives?

 

Let’s face it ladies, how often do we say “No” to men on a daily, weekly or yearly basis? Regardless of the context, women are more often in the position to say “No” to men and to have that answer accepted without incident.

The reality is, we still live in a society where gender roles play a huge part in our day to day lives and whether we like to accept it or not, mmalevsfemaleen and women are not equal.  Men are much more likely to be the aggressor, the alpha, the initiator, the one to ask directly for what they want and not be afraid of hearing “No” as a response.  That being said, the more men ask, the more often they hear “No” and “Yes”.  If men were put off by every “No” that they heard, they certainly wouldn’t keep asking.  Basic psychology suggests that if there is a chance at even obtaining the slightest reward, one shall seek it repeatedly without extinction.

Women on the other hand, are used to being pursued by men.  Most women, and I am speaking generally here, are more frequently pursued by men than they do actively pursue men and thus are more often in a position to decline the advance than to face rejection themselves.

So how does this translate to sales?

Bottom line is, men are simply much more used to rejection because they face it more often than women do.

Men are used to asking and hearing “No”.

Women are used to being asked and saying “No”.

I’m sure some of you alpha female sales and business women like myself are reading this and thinking, “What are you talking about? If I want something, I go out and get it!”. Yes, that is what I do and yes, there are many women like myself out there who go out, get what they want and don’t fear rejection. After all, the only way to be successful in life is to take risks and do whatever it takes to get what you want and that always involves some sort of rejection or disappointment of some sort. Nothing in life is easy. You have to fight for everything. However, the majority of women are not alpha females, which is a relatively new concept in itself.

In sales, the primary reason that sales representatives are afraid to ask for the sale, is a simple fear of rejection

So, my question to you fellow sales and business professionals:  If men are so much more accustomed to rejection than women, does that qualify them as better sales reps than women?

Generally speaking, women are sensitive and emotional beings, much more so than their male counterparts.  If a woman asks for a sale, and is declined, is she that much more easily discouraged than a man?  And thus, less likely to ask for future sales in fear of facing that same rejection?

Furthermore, do women find it more difficult to live a life on the road than men? How many female truck drivers do you see on the road? How many business women do you see in the airport? Certainly less than men.

I remember I was once told by one of my male superiors that “You women need more time to relax and regroup than a man.” when I was asking for a day off after a long business trip.

When I heard that comment, I didn’t know how to take it.  On the one hand, I was slightly offended. Did he think I was some sort of princess because I wanted a day to relax after a long trip and get my home back in order?  But that got me thinking: “Would a man need that day off as well? Or would a man just jump right back into the office? If a man would just go right back to work with no time off, does that make a man a better road warrior than me? 

After seriously doubting myself, I came to the conclusion that “Thank goodness I’m not a man because otherwise, I probably  wouldn’t have gotten that day off!”. I believe that anyone who works hard enough needs a rest at some point, otherwise you simply burn out.

Whether we like to admit it or not, we live in a sexist society full of gender stereotypes.  In my opinion and theoretically speaking of course, men should be better at “asking for the sale” than women simply because they have more experience doing this starting at a very young age!

When it comes down to getting the sale, I believe it is all about your individual personality and the degree of persistence and ambition that you have as a sales rep. However your ability to accept rejection is something you must get a solid grasp on in order to be successful in sales.   Although men may have a head start in that regard, over time if you’re in sales long enough, regardless of your gender, you grow tough skin and learn to take rejection quite well.

And for life on the road, I think more men typically make this a career because even though they may have families, more often than not it is the woman who will stay home with the children.

For those of you reading this, I would love to hear your views on whether one gender or neither has an advantage over the other and to hear any stories you may have had encountering sexism or stereotypes in your career.

I look forward to hearing your feedback and discussing this with you all!

Cheers,

TSW

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How to Qualify Leads and Not Get Led Astray

Qualifying leads is probably the most difficult skill a salesperson must learn in their career.   It is particularly difficult to do if you are new in sales or new in your industry.  In order to properly qualify your leads, you must:

  1. ASK the right questions
  2. LISTEN to your customer
  3. BE CREATIVEwinternowhere

When I first started in sales, I made the mistake of blindly trusting anyone who suggested a lead to me.  I can’t fault myself for my naivety.  I mean, I was just an eager brand new sales rep.  So whether I got a lead from upper management or by word of mouth through a referral, I quickly learned that you just never really know until you ask your potential customer some crucial questions and qualify them yourself.

I will share with you an example of a time when I failed to do so, and ended up in a less than ideal situation.  My very first week on the road as a sales rep, I got led astray big time both literally and figuratively all because I didn’t know how to properly qualify my lead.

I was having a good meeting with a customer and she asked me “Are you planning on seeing Dr. X?”.

The name wasn’t familiar to me, so I thought that I must have missed that doctor in my database.  I replied, “No, is Dr. X in this city? I don’t recall seeing their name in my database.”

She informed me that “Oh, you must stop by and see Dr. X.  She would use all of the products you are selling and she is only a 10 minute drive away.”

To me that sounded like a win-win.  I had some time to kill before I had to go to the airport, so why not try and get some new business and get working on that hot lead?  After all, it was only 10 minutes away and it was a referral.

She proceeded to give me explicit directions and I was on my way.  I must note that these directions were to drive along this highway for 20Km, make a right at a landmark and the clinic was just around the corner.

As I was driving on this prairie highway in the dead of winter, I was watching the odometer and 20km came and went.  On this particular stretch of highway, there were no businesses, no side roads and certainly no exits.  On top of that, the driving conditions quickly deteriorated into a complete whiteout.  I was driving a sedan with no snow tires.  Rental cars never have snow tires.  The landmark that I was looking out for was a white horse.  Try finding that on a flat prairie highway in the middle of a whiteout!  I was starting to panic, especially since I had a flight to catch later that afternoon.  My panic worsened when I saw a sign for the next town: It was over 300km away! “How on earth do I turn around and get out of here?!?” .

Finally after driving almost 60km and almost having a full blown panic attack, I finally saw the white horse landmark she mentioned.  I was going to give her the benefit of the doubt thinking that  she accidentally told me the distance in miles instead of kilometers (1 mile = 2.2km) but I don’t think the average person could drive 20 miles in less than 10 minutes! .  So that was lie #1.  When I saw this landmark, I was most relieved to finally see a road that I could take to TURN AROUND and go back.  But instead of turning around, I figured that I had already gone this far and I’ve already passed the point of no return, so I drove on in pursuit of this “lead”.

After I make the turn, it’s another 5 minute drive until I find this clinic. Certainly not just around the corner! Lie #2.

Upon my arrival at the clinic, I greet the staff and get in to see the doctor. Lucky for a cold call! I mention Dr. Y recommended that I see her because she thought that she could use my products.

Well as it turned out, this doctor didn’t use any similar products and in discussing her practice in greater depth, I realized that there wasn’t even potential for her to use my products. Lie #3.

I was furious! Dr. Y. sent me all that way in a blizzard on a route that was 3x longer than what she told me and this doctor she referred me to didn’t even use anything remotely close to what I was selling.  She totally sent me on a wild goose chase.  I’m sure she was very amused.  I was so angry that if I didn’t have to make that flight, I would have gone back to her clinic to blow a gasket on her. Not very professional I know, but I got quite scared on that drive and I just couldn’t believe that a professional would lead me astray like that just for fun.    People lie to sales reps for a multitude of reasons but as you may have guessed, this particular individual just happened to be a tad more “off kilter” than the average person.

I later found out from other representatives who had called on this doctor, that she had been known to deliberately go out of her way to get reps into trouble.  For instance, a few reps who used to call on her informed me that she would actually lock the door in front of them when they showed up for an appointment and then she would call their sales manager and tell them that they never showed for the appointment.

Although this lady was an exceptionally bad seed and it is extremely rare that professionals would act in this type of manner, this story is a great example of why you should not just blindly accept and follow any lead you receive without properly qualifying it first.

What did I do wrong?

You guessed it, I didn’t qualify this lead.

What should I have done?

A simple phone call to the clinic in advance would have saved me a lot of time and grief.  Calling in advance of dropping in is not only a sign of respect for your potential future customer but also a great opportunity to qualify them as a potential buyer and decide if they are worthy of your time.

Some questions to help qualify your lead may be:

I hear your business does “X”, can you tell me a bit more about your business so I can see if there is a potential fit between what your company does and what our company has to offer?

Does your business currently use Product or Service X (a product or service that is similar to what you are selling)?

How often do you buy/use said product/service?

Who is normally involved in making the decisions to purchase this product/service?

When do you intend to purchase? It is essential to find out where they are in the buying process and is it a wish, a want or a need? This is very important.

If they don’t currently use a product or service similar to what you are selling, make sure to ask them more questions about the nature of their business to see if there is some way that they could find your product or service useful.   Be creative! Think outside of the box.  But sometimes, just like in my example, there may just not be a fit.

If you can manage to ask a few of these questions in an introductory phone call in order to ascertain if the lead is worthwhile pursuing, it will definitely pay off.  If they are worthwhile pursuing, great, go for it! If not, you just saved a lot of time and effort which you could otherwise be spending focusing on clients who will actually buy from you.

In summary, qualifying isn’t easy.  Sure you can learn some good probing questions in your sales/product training but until you really have a solid grasp of your industry, it isn’t always so intuitive.

Practice makes perfect and the more questions you ask, the more you learn.   

Happy Sales!

 

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The Do’s and Don’ts of Cold Calling

dos-and-dontsWhether you are just starting out in sales or you are a seasoned sales representative in your field, if you want to increase your customer base and your sales, cold calling is an absolute necessity.  Cold calling is an art which must be mastered in order for you to be successful in sales.

Most sales people dread the thought of cold calling.  I however am elated at the opportunity.  Why wouldn’t I be? It’s an opportunity to take on the challenge of gaining a new account, getting new sales, establishing more relationships and making more revenue! If you’re in sales and you don’t love getting a sale, you’re probably in the wrong field of work. 

Some “experts” say that “cold calling is dead” because we can all connect through social media first before proceeding to make a “warm call”.  Sure, in some cases this is true.  However if you discover a new potential customer who’s ad you saw online or who’s business you drove by and noticed for the first time, are you really going to go home and stalk them on the internet and waste an hour or more of your time Googling their company, looking them up on LinkedIn and seeing if you have any common connections before you send them an email? And what do you do if you don’t have any common connections?

In my opinion, I think that anyone who preaches and practices this is simply  just too chicken &*%$ to pick up the phone and actually do a cold call.  

In Canada, it is also illegal to email any business or individual without their explicit consent.  Our anti-spam legislation here is so strict that if let’s say you look up a potential customer’s email address on their website, send them an introductory email about you and your company, you could personally face a fine of $1 Million and your company could face a fine of up to $10 Million.

So what should you do? That’s right, pick up the phone and make that cold call!  I know you hate to, but when I first started out in sales and was dreading it, I always told myself “Suck it Up Princess!” and that seemed to do the trick.  After all, you have nothing to lose.

If you make the call, you might get a sale (and possibly repeat sales).

If you don’t make the call, you certainly won’t get the sale.

Okay, so you’re ready to make that cold call. Now what do you say?  This is what you should and should not do on a cold call:

DO:

  • Warmly introduce yourself and the company you are calling from
  • Ask the person answering the phone nicely how they are doing and make note of their name.  Keep record of their name.  They may be a decision maker or you can reference their name later when you make that follow-up call or visit.
  • Tell them very briefly (single sentence ) what your company does and how you found about them
  • Ask them if they are currently using any similar product/services your company provides.  At this point, if the person answering the phone is capable of answering your questions regardless of the answer, ask to make an appointment with them AND /or the other person in charge of making decisions in this area.  If they do not know, THEN ask who might be the person in charge of making decisions and if you can speak with them.  If you offer to include the person to whom you have made your initial contact in your meeting request, it is a sign of respect and even if they are not involved in the decision making process, they will more than likely gladly point you in the right direction.
  • Be nice to everyone.  You are not familiar with the company hierarchy and if you want to get to the decision maker and want to establish a long working relationship with a new potential customer, you should be kind and thoughtful to everyone you interact with.

DON’TS

NEVER, I repeat NEVER just call and immediately ask to speak to the “Manager” or “Person in Charge”!!  I cannot emphasize this enough.  You NEVER know who is answering the phone.  The person answering the phone may be the owner of the company, it may be their spouse or their star employee. If you assume the person answering the phone is just a means-to-and-end-answering-service, they will very likely HANG UP ON YOU and deservedly so. That kind of attitude immediately spells to the person answering the phone that they are inadequate and not worth your time. So why should they help you? That’s right, they shouldn’t.  I certainly wouldn’t.

So the next time you’re tempted to run and hide behind your computer screen instead of making that dreaded cold call, suck it up Princess, pick up that phone and be your lovely self.  The sales will come.

Happy Sales!

TSW

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